World Science Forum: Science for Peace

07 November 2017

A panel of global thought-leaders declared renewed intent to fight poverty and promote just, equitable and inclusive social development based on the restoration, protection and sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems to promote greater peace and social harmony during the Opening Ceremony of World Science Forum (WSF) 2017 under the theme of ‘Science for Peace’. The Forum brings together delegates from over 120 countries during four days of plenary sessions, short seminars and individual lectures, addressing a large audience of diplomats, global science stakeholders and key influencers.

The 2017 World Science Forum is hosted by Jordan, under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, who called upon delegates to do more to accelerate the accumulation, use and diffusion of scientific knowledge and its application in technological innovations capable of reshaping our world for the better. Accentuating the positive, he remarked that: “Today, our future depends more than ever on scientists working together in a spirit of tough inquiry and mutual respect; for a resilient, sustainable future demands science at its innovative best. Jordan is proud to host the World Science Forum, an accelerator of global scientific collaboration, opportunity, and peace”.

In her message to the Forum, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, reminded that “science holds key answers to the challenges of today and tomorrow, and when we hear voices raise suspicion about the facts and importance of scientific knowledge, we must join forces, and unite. Science is a force for sustainable development -- it is a driver of dialogue and peace -- the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME), which opened last May, shows how science can brings together scientists from all backgrounds around a common goal.”

The President of Hungary, Janos János Áder, highlighted that only science can provide solutions to the main challenges facing our world today: supplying a growing population with water, cleaning up and preventing pollution, and ensuring food security and energy provision

Organized every 2 years, the forum is one of the world’s major science events. It brings together over 600 scientists and provides linkages between scientists, industry and policy makers to focus on the social and economic relevance, influence and responsibilities of science. Every effort is made to ensure that all regions are represented and that all voices are given the chance to be heard.

During the Opening ‘Science for Peace’ Plenary, South African Minister for Science, Naledi Pandor warned against complacency: “No country, no region can afford isolation. Our problems are also our neighbour’s problems. More than ever we need greater global solidarity to confront rising, unacceptable and very dangerous inequalities. Science has a crucial role to play in our responses to all these societal challenges and strong international cooperation will be essential. The World Science Forum is a critical platform to foster intensified collaboration, also ensuring the science contributions from developing countries play their much needed, rightful part.”

The Forum is also a platform to announce the latest findings in environmental and health sciences. This year’s programme offers 8 plenary sessions: a main theme throughout all discussions is a ‘sustainability development goals update & critique’, bringing together leading decision-makers to take stock of progress made towards the UN’s 2030 Agenda. In this regard, two plenaries deal with ‘the energy/water nexus: intelligent management for sustainability & fairness’ and ‘science & food security: how to feed the world sustainably & equitably’.

What is new in 2017 is a strong focus on science business and the innovation ecosystem to bring about the Sustainable Development Goals where the views of innovators, educationalists and economy-watchers collide. For example, plenaries on the ‘opportunities & challenges of digital transformation’ or ‘building resilience in an inter-connected world’ bring these discussions to the fore. Confidence in science and communicating with society remain a backbone of Forum meetings where issues of ethics and scientific integrity are hotly debated. ‘Promoting inclusion through science education, outreach and engagement’ is tackled, alongside a mini-Gender Summit. A timely discussion on ‘rebuilding broken societies through reconstruction & recovery’ is expected to capture the mood of this year’s gathering. The end of conference plenary brings together well-known funders and the ‘suppliers’ of public research to examine the pros and cons of ‘science diplomacy to strengthen governance & build enduring relationships’.

It is expected that the legacy of the Forum 2017 will be an unequivocal wake-up call to scientists and diplomats: despite clear advances in a number of emerging economies and societies in transition, the knowledge and economic divide is widening, thus curbing the potential of science and technology to contribute to global human and economic development. However, the recent global trends show a more pronounced use of science in policy-making and efforts to bridge the difficulties inherent in the roles of scientists and policy-makers which must allow for greater stakeholder inclusion, a trend that must be supported.